Nina Bentley – Where the worlds of art and writing collide

HKD Nina

Helen Klisser During (left, curator WAC) with Nina Bentley

Nina Bentley is the kind of unusual artist I love. For one thing, her assemblage art is easy to understand, and for another, it makes me want to buy it and take it home. Not just because it’s beautiful but because I also love the wit she shows in all her pieces. The Westport Arts Center is currently exhibiting her work in a two-artist exhibition called Soles Scents. Nina’s contribution is the sole of the show, so to speak. These 23 creations are based on real shoes that she has decorated with objets trouvés to tell a tale.
“My shoes are humorous (ShuShi), dark (Freudian Slipper), political (Platform Shoe), feminist (Feathering One’s Nest) and, at times, just pretty (Primavera), but each tells a story, one meaningful to me, and, hopefully, to the viewers,” she says. You can see the exhibition through September 7. (The Scents piece of the show includes paintings of perfume bottles by Robert Cottingham.)
These shoes are wonderful, and many collectors and art museums agree with me on this, of course. But what really grabbed my attention was a notice telling me that she is currently (until July 26) exhibiting some of her works based on typewriters at the Worrell Smith Gallery in Westport. Here’s one of her pieces, He Looked Good on Paper:

 

He Looked Good on Paper (enlarged section)

He Looked Good on Paper (enlarged section)

Behind the large type, you can see the qualifications of the candidate (for marriage? a job?). They include: Choate, Andover, Dartmouth, Harvard, New York Athletic Club, Larchmont Yacht Club, Princeton, Eaton, Marshall Scholar, etc. You get the picture.
And the others are just as interesting. Funny, but also making a serious point. If you can get there, do. If you can’t, check out some the links above to see Nina’s art, or click here
If you’re a writer, you’ll get it.

 

Creating a story in 3-D

As a writer,I like to recharge my creative batteries by checking out an art exhibit or going to a concert. Using a different set of senses to take in ideas gives me a boost. So I was pleased to meet the artist Andrea Morganstern recently at the Westport Arts Center’s exhibit Foodies – where all the art has some connection to food. It’s been one of their most popular exhibits, with good reason, and you can see it (provided they’re open after the storm) until November 4th . Andrea’s artwork stands out, though; for one thing, it’s taller than she is. And it tells its own story.

In fact, the piece, entitled Corn Bird, was produced using a process similar to  a 3-D printing, a fascinating thing in itself. I wanted to know more.

 

 

 

GC: Please tell us something about yourself

AM: I am an artist based in Bridgewater, CT, a small rural town in the northwest part of the state.  I relocated here after living in New York City for many years.  The closeness to nature has been very inspiring for the development of my recent work.  I have been exhibiting my artwork widely throughout the US since 1995 in galleries, museums and non-profit spaces.

 

GC: How would you describe the figures you are currently making?

AM: The sculptures, like all of my work, are about two main concepts. The first is the interconnectedness of all things in nature. I explore this idea by blending botanical, animal and human elements to create hybrid creatures. My work is also about the existence of other dimensions or parallel universes besides this physical one we normally perceive as reality, and an exploration into who or what might dwell there.

GC: It seems to me that your figures tell a story. Could you explain the ideas behind the corn figure, specifically, or the stories which influenced you as you were creating it?

AM: My work is inspired by the art of ancient civilizations, particularly Egyptian, Pre-Columbian and Hindu, as well as travel to places where traces of these civilizations remain. Corn Bird, for example was inspired by a trip to Peru where I learned that corn is considered sacred by the native culture and I was inspired to create a deity made of corn.   I see the figures as spirit beings or deities from my own imaginary ancient civilization or parallel universe. I intended for Corn Bird to have a dignified quality, like an ancient Egyptian pharaoh or priest or some other kind of ancient wise being, with the corn husks doubling as robes. Every creature has a golden botanically inspired headpiece. I paint them gold to suggest an elevated status or high spiritual level.

GC: Most of your figures have been around a foot tall (correct me if I’m wrong here). What made you decide to make one that’s taller than you are?

I decided that as separate artworks, the sculptures might have more presence and really come to life if I created them large-scale so I decided to experiment by creating a much larger version of Corn Bird.

GC: Please explain a bit about how you used technology to make the sculpture.

AM: For my small sculptures, I make the original out of clay, create a mold out of silicone rubber and then create castings out of urethane resin. I then paint the castings with acrylics.

For the larger scale version of Corn Bird, I worked with a fine art fabricator. I provided them with a small version of the sculpture which they scanned with a three-dimensional laser to create a three-dimensional model. This model was then used to create a machining path that was used to guide a three-dimensional milling machine. The sculpture was milled out at the new larger scale in high density urethane foam. A surfacing compound was then applied to the foam model to smooth out the surface and to replicate the detail of the original. The surfacing compound dried into a thin coat of resin which was sanded and finished.

A mold was created from the foam model using urethane rubber and rigid resins. The mold was used to create a hollow resin casting. The casting material consisted of fiber reinforced polyurethane. The casting was soda blasted (which is like sandblasting except using baking soda rather than sand) to remove surface residue. Then the casting was sanded. Finally, the casting was painted with a combination of automotive urethanes and acrylics and finished with a urethane automotive clear coat.

 

Flock

GC: Could you tell us something about how you use the smaller figures? Do you sell them as separate artworks?

AM: Originally I created my sculptures to be used as props in my photographs. I take the sculptures into nature and photograph them, incorporating many natural elements into the composition and narrative. Eventually, I began exhibiting the smaller sculptures in addition to the photographs as separate artworks.

GC: Where can readers find you? (website, art galleries if any are exhibiting, or will be exhibiting in the future, Facebook???)

AM: My work is currently on view at the Deborah Colton Gallery, in Houston, TX.  My work can also be viewed on my website at: www.andreamorganstern.com.

You’re never too old to publish

At the beginning of February, I wrote a post called It’s never too late for fun, about a woman, who, aged 88, wanted to sit on the cannons at Compo beach again, and, with the help of friends and strangers, did it. You can see from the photos on that blog just how delighted she was.

Now she’s done it again. Not cannons, this time, but a book. Illustrated, written and published with the help of friends and strangers. And Susan Malloy is very happy indeed. Here’s how it happened:

A year ago Susan, already a successful painter, was in Paris with her grandchildren, aged 10 and 17. As always, being an artist, she was sketching what she saw, when it struck her that there might be other young people who would like an illustrated introduction to Paris. And so the idea for a book was born. When she returned home to Connecticut, she gathered her pen and ink sketches and wrote brief paragraphs to go with each, introducing the famous sights.

Next she approached a friend of hers, another well known and multi-talented artist, Miggs Burroughs. He’s known particularly for his lenticular works (see one here: http:  Go to the site and click on one of the black & white photographs to see how they work. If you want to see another, you’ll have to leave the site and come back, since it only shows one at a time.) Miggs designed the layout for the book, and then came the long trek to publication.

A local copying and printing company produced a mockup of the book, and a French teacher in New York looked at it to make sure all the French words were spelled correctly. This is what one of the pages looks like.

Then it was time to find a printer who could print a small but high quality book. Susan turned to her friend, Helen Klisser During, curator of the Westport Arts Center, who immediately decided that a) she wanted to help, and b) she wanted Susan to submit the drawings to the Arts Center as part of the annual juried SOLOs exhibit, which features WAC member artists. The judges chose Susan as one of the artists to be exhibited. Taking the sketches to the local framing shop to have them matted and framed for exhibition, Helen asked the owner for advice on printing. The owner recommended a printer not too far away. He couldn’t do it, but recommended the guy upstairs, who was a printer of specialized materials. He couldn’t do it either, but came up with the name of the man who could, and did. He was Stephen Stinehour, a lifelong publisher of art-quality books, in a tiny town in the North East Kingdom of Vermont. Stephen helped Susan choose the right typography and weight of paper and agreed to print 300 beautiful copies at a very reasonable price.

On the day of her gallery opening, book signing and launch, she sold 50 copies at $10 each, and told Helen that this was one of the happiest days of her life. She’s a living example of what staying consistent and focused on the goal can do. And she’s a testament to the value of friendship and teamwork in making dreams come true.

Susan distributes the books through the Westport Arts Center, the Westport Library, and the Westport Historical Society. You can also buy them from her directly. If you’d like to buy one, let me know and I’ll be happy to put you in touch.

It’s never too late to publish a book

At the beginning of February, I wrote a post on my personal blog called It’s never too late for fun, about a woman, who, aged 88, wanted to sit on the cannons at Compo beach again, and, with the help of friends and strangers, did it. You can see from the photos on that blog just how delighted she was.

Now she’s done it again. Not cannons, this time, but a book. Illustrated, written and published with the help of friends and strangers. And Susan Malloy is very happy indeed. Here’s how it happened:

A year ago Susan, already a successful painter, was in Paris with her grandchildren, aged 10 and 17. As always, being an artist, she was sketching what she saw, when it struck her that there might be other young people who would like an illustrated introduction to Paris. And so the idea for a book was born. When she returned home to Connecticut, she gathered her pen and ink sketches and wrote brief paragraphs to go with each, introducing the famous sights.

Next she approached a friend of hers, another well known and multi-talented artist, Miggs Burroughs. He’s known particularly for his lenticular works (see one here: http:  Go to the site and click on one of the black & white photographs to see how they work. If you want to see another, you’ll have to leave the site and come back, since it only shows one at a time.) Miggs designed the layout for the book, and then came the long trek to publication.

A local copying and printing company produced a mockup of the book, and a French teacher in New York looked at it to make sure all the French words were spelled correctly. This is what one of the pages looks like.

Then it was time to find a printer who could print a small but high quality book. Susan turned to her friend, Helen Klisser During, curator of the Westport Arts Center, who immediately decided that a) she wanted to help, and b) she wanted Susan to submit the drawings to the Arts Center as part of the annual juried SOLOs exhibit, which features WAC member artists. The judges chose Susan as one of the artists to be exhibited. Taking the sketches to the local framing shop to have them matted and framed for exhibition, Helen asked the owner for advice on printing. The owner recommended a printer not too far away. He couldn’t do it, but recommended the guy upstairs, who was a printer of specialized materials. He couldn’t do it either, but came up with the name of the man who could, and did. He was Stephen Stinehour, a lifelong publisher of art-quality books, in a tiny town in the North East Kingdom of Vermont. Stephen helped Susan choose the right typography and weight of paper and agreed to print 300 beautiful copies at a very reasonable price.

Photo: Helen Klisser During ©

On the day of her gallery opening, book signing and launch, she sold 50 copies at $10 each, and told Helen that this was one of the happiest days of her life. She’s a living example of what staying consistent and focused on the goal can do. And she’s a testament to the value of friendship and teamwork in making dreams come true.

Susan distributes the books through the Westport Arts Center, the Westport Library, and the Westport Historical Society. You can also buy them from her directly. If you’d like to buy one, let me know and I’ll be happy to put you in touch.